Richmond couldn’t make it happen

The city of Petersburg, Virginia is hoping that state capital Richmond’s loss is its gain. According to ABC 8 News, Petersburg officials have submitted a request to the state General Assembly to hold a casino referendum in 2025.

In 2020, state lawmakers passed legislation allowing for five brick-and-mortar casinos, all in specific cities: Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond. Bristol (Hard Rock), Danville (Caesars), and Portsmouth (Rivers), already have their casinos open and the Pamunkey Tribe will open theirs in Norfolk at some point.

That leaves Richmond. Two years ago, city residents voted against a casino by a thin 51%-49% margin. After much political and legal wrangling, Richmond was permitted to hold another referendum earlier this month, but this time, the results were not nearly as close. Voters opted against a casino yet again, 58%-41%, with those closer to the proposed location voting heavily in favor of it.

And that will be it for Richmond. The city is not abiding by the “third time’s a charm” mantra. Thus, Petersburg, which is just south of the state capital, is stepping up to the plate (or bellying up to the table, if we want to go more poker themed).

Petersburg has some work to do

Petersburg leaders see a casino as a major economic driver for the city, one which has a poverty rate more than twice the state average.

ABC 8 News said that a 2022 study by the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission calculated that a casino would generate about $12 million in revenue for Petersburg (presumably on an annual basis). Not to mention the temporary construction jobs and permanent casino jobs.

There has been some bad blood between Petersburg and the state legislature over this, though, and Petersburg resident Barbara Rudolph brought that up during a recent City Council meeting.

“I think that it will be interesting to see how much fence-mending you all can do because whatever you try to do is still dependent on the General Assembly,” she said. “You still have to get designated as a host city in order to have a referendum.”

What she may be referring to is the state Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee voting down a bill that would have allowed Petersburg residents to decide for themselves if they want a casino. That committee was led by Sen. Louise Lucas from Portsmouth, who is also Senate president pro tempore.

Sen. Joe Morrissey of Richmond, a proponent of a Petersburg casino, went off, saying that the committee let “parochial interests get in the way of what’s best for Petersburg and citizens there.”

He continued in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, accusing Lucas of protecting Portsmouth’s casino interest, saying, that she “did everything she could to be an obstructionist to a casino in Petersburg.”

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